How to make a circle skirt without a pattern

Step by step tutorial to make a circle skirt without a pattern. This tutorial includes a handy waist circumference chart, and instructions on how to add a pocket.
Yardage Requirements

Purchase five yards of 45” wide fabric. If the total of the waist measure + the waist to hem length is more than 44”, then purchase five yards of 60” wide fabric. You can tweak your yardage requirements after you make your first skirt.

I recommend you make a test skirt using cheap muslin fabric. Once you’ve made a skirt using these instructions you can redraw the pattern on a large piece of paper to use as a traditional pattern.

Instructions
This full circle skirt is made of two half panels, which means you'll end up with two seams, one on each side. This skirt is made to slip over your hips, thus the skirt can sit either on your waist or hips. I’ve included measurements for a 3 panel skirt in case you want more fullness in the skirt.

1. Cut the 5 yards of fabric in half so you have two 2 1/2 yard (90”) long pieces. If using 3 panels, cut the 5 yards of fabric in thirds so you have about 1 2/3 yard (around 60”) long pieces.

2. Fold each piece in half.

3. Draw the waistline curve: Measure around the fullest part of your hips or waist – whichever is larger – if you are inserting an elastic waistband. Measure around your waist if you are finishing the waist without elastic.

Find this measure in the hips column in the Waist Chart below. Choose either the 2 or 3 panel measure.

Example: I want to make a skirt with an elastic waist. My hips measure 35”. My waist measure is 5”.

Pin a length of ribbon to the top corner edge of the fabric. Measure out waist measure and tie the other end to a pencil. Use it as a compass to draw the waistline curve, shown in the image as a dotted blue line.

4. Draw the hemline curve: Measure from your waist (or where you want the skirt to start) down to where you want the skirt to end. Measure down the side of your body without bending over. Add 2” for the hem.

Example: I want my skirt to start at my waist and end just below my knees. With a plastic tape measure I measure from my waist, down the outside of my hip, to just below my knees. This measure is 25”. My total skirt length is 27” (25” + a 2” hem).

Mark this measure on the fabric starting at the end of the waist, shown in the image as solid red line. Pin a long length of ribbon to the top corner edge of the fabric. Measure out your waist measure PLUS your waist to hem measure and tie the other end to a pencil. Use it as a compass to draw the hemline curve, shown in the image as dotted red line.

Example: My waist measure is 5”. My waist to hem measure is 27”. The length of the ribbon from the top edge to the hemline curve is 32”.

WAIST CHART (in inches)

The Math: This chart calculates how wide the waist opening has to be to fit over your hips. The math for the waist measure is (hip measurement-(hip measurement*.10))/3.14/2. The .10 is to counter some the bias stretch resulting from a circular cut. The rest of the stretch is taken up by the 1/2” seam allowances.

Add a hidden pocket (optional)

An inset pocket is easily sewn into the seam allowance before the side seams are sewn.

1. Click here for my free pocket pattern. Cut two pocket pieces out of your fabric to make one pocket.

 

2. Mark and notch the side of your skirt 7” - 8” from the waist. Be sure to notch both sides at once.

 

3. Pin one pocket piece below the notch on one skirt side. Sew along the straight seam allowance, all across the pocket. Press out the seam allowance. Flip and press the pocket to the side. Repeat steps 3 & 4 for the other pocket and skirt panel.

 

4. Stack both pieces right sides together. Line up notch. Mark the bottom curve of the pocket. Draw in the seam allowance on the pocket.

  

5. Stitch along the entire length of the seam allowance from the waist, around the pockets, and down to the hem. Press open straight stitching seam allowances.

 

6. Turn inside out. Admire your new inset pocket!

Using french seams? Click for my tutorial on how to insert a pocket using french seams.

Sew the side seams

Sew or serge the two side seams with a 1/2” seam allowance. Leave the top 5-6” of the seam open if you are using a waistband (non-elastic). Using french seams? Click for my tutorial on how to finish a skirt opening using french seams.

Waist Finishes

There are various ways to finish the waist:

Hem Finishes

Here are several different hem techniques:

Comments
theeleonoraproject
I used that same skull ribbon to make an elastic casing on my Esmeralda chemise! Hee.

Artemisia
Evil minds and all that jazz... >:)

Anonymous
Does every circle skirt have the same length? I really want to make one, but I don't want one down to my knees...thank you!

Artemisia Moltabocca
You can make a circle skirt at whatever length you want! On step 4 of the instructions, simply measure down from your waist to where you want the skirt to end. So if you want the skirt to be floor-length (or mini-length), simply measure from your waist down to the the floor (or the middle of your hips). Be sure not to bend over for the measure, and measure along the side of your body over your hips (espcially for mini-skirt versions). Use that measurement as your 'waist-to-hem' measure. :)

Tina Jagerson, Esq.
What if the person's waist is bigger than her hips? How do you make the opening big enough to fit her waist using the waist length measures you list?

Artemisia Moltabocca
I would then measure around the fullest part of the waist instead of the hips. Use that as the waist length. I'll update the tutorial to reflect that. :)

Anonymous
So if I want to make 3 panels, but don't want to fold the fabric in half, how do I figure the ratio for the waist length with a 40" waist? The ratio wouldn't be 3 7/8 since I'm not folding, right? I just want to lay the fabric out flat and cut 3 panels. I only have a little less than 4 yards, so cutting it in half or folding doesn't seem to work out. Thanks.

Artemisia Moltabocca
You want to lay out all the fabric in one layer and cut out each individual piece, right? If so I'd recommend you make a paper pattern using the instructions first, then use that pattern to cut out your fabric pieces. Use large brown kraft paper or tape together gift wrap, newspaper, or even scrap letter paper to use as the pattern. It eliminates the hassle of drawing in and cutting out that huge bottom curved edge, plus it helps you gauge whether you really have enough fabric for the skirt. Let me know how it turns out!

Irma
Math question. One yard = 36 inches. 2.5 yards = 2.5 x 36? Doesn't that mean a length that is 2.5 yards = 90 inches?

Artemisia Moltabocca
Yes it does! Guess I had typing dyslexia for a moment. :)

Anonymous
Are there pictures that can go along with the pattern?

Artemisia Moltabocca
Well, there really isn't a pattern - just a method to measure out what you need. Since you asked I could try to make a demo video of me taking the measurements on fabric if you think it would help. You'll have to give me some time though, as I'm back working at a 'real life' job and have limited time on my hands right now. :)

Anonymous
If you are making a 3 panel skirt, do you need 7.5 yards of fabric then?

Artemisia Moltabocca
No, because the three panel version is cut more narrow than the two panel version.

lovetosew
Thanks so much for explaining the circle skirt and how to understand the measurements without a lesson in drafting LOL

Anonymous
On 2 pieces of material, how far down do I measure for a waist of 24" on the blue line???

Artemisia Moltabocca
Are your hips smaller than 24"? The waist measure isn't based on your waist, it's based on your hips. The skirt needs to be wide enough to go over the widest measure around your hips, so your actual waist measure isn't used to figure out the waist length.

If your hips are smaller than 24", post another comment saying so and I'll update the chart to reflect the smaller sizing. :)

Anonymous
Hi! If i'm using three panels, do I cut the 5 yards into 3 equal pieces and then fold each one in half to draw my line?

Thanks

Artemisia Moltabocca
Yep, you got it! I'll update the instructions to reflect that. :)

Becca Smith
Im not understanding... if I cut 2 panels with a 5 1/8" waist length.. x4(2 panels folded in half).. is only 20.5"... how is that going to fit over a 36" waist?

Artemisia Moltabocca
The 5 1/8" waist length is straight, the curve that you draw has more length to it. Check out the section called "The Math" underneath the chart for the explanation. Also, if you are using an elastic waistband you need to select your HIP measure, not your waist measure (unless your waist is larger than your hips). The 36" will fit your waist but will not go over your hips if they are larger than 36". :)

Anonymous
I've made circle skirts before, but was just looking online to refresh my memory. Thank you for the handy chart for the waistline curve. :)

I think you've got one small error here - when you mark the second curve with the waist to hem length, if you are marking it from the corner point, you need to add the length for the waist circumference. Otherwise, you aren't measuring the true length from the actual waistline. You will lose those 4-9 inches of length from the corner point to the waistline curve. You could use a yardstick from the first curve, but using a string from the point is much handier.



Kristy Overaitis
Just wanted to check. If I wanted pockets on both sides, would I actually need to cut 4 pocket pieces?

Artemisia Moltabocca
@ Anonymous: You are right! I'll update the tutorial. Thank you for making this tutorial better. *LUV*

@Kristy: Yep, you need to cut out four pieces. I'll update the tutorial to make that clearer. :)